NIV to help Sun Pharma test Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya drugs

Sun Pharma announced a tie-up with National Institute of Virology (NIV) under the Indian Council of Medical Research for testing various compounds for treating rapidly spreading viral infections — Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue.

The compounds will include those sourced from plants, animals and chemical entities developed by Sun Pharma. NIV will do the testing against Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue.

Candidate molecules with encouraging data will then be taken forward for commercial development.

“Sun Pharma and NIV aim to promote discovery sciences, translational health research and development of medical products, which is in sync with the direction provided by Govt. of India’s ‘Make In India’ initiative,” the company said.

The agreement follows a similar tie-up with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting joint scientific research and innovation for testing of drugs, biosimilars and vaccines and disease control and elimination programs.

“Together, Sun Pharma and NIV will work together to respond to significant and emerging public health threats in India and rest of the world due to viruses: Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue.”

India has seen an explosion of cases of such viral infections, particularly Dengue and Chikungunya. These spread faster in the early days of the rainy season as water collects in empty vessels, bottles, tires and other articles, providing a ready breeding ground for Aedes mosquito.

These aboviral diseases have rapidly spread across globally in the last decade, and have often led to large-scale endemic outbreaks in tropical and sub-tropical countries.

While these viral diseases are transmitted to humans by infected Aedes mosquitoes, Zika and chickungunya viruses are genetically related.

There are no specific therapeutic drugs to treat or cure these diseases and intervention is limited to controlling the symptoms such as fever — something that Sun Pharma aims to change.

“Our agreement with NIV for developing drugs against Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue is part of our broader commitment for developing new and improved vaccines and drugs against arboviruses that are of significant health importance to India and rest of the world,” said Kirti Ganorkar, Executive VP & Head, Global Business Development, Sun Pharma.

Devendra Mourya, Director of NIV, said: ”Rapid spread of Zika virus across the world has added threat to the list of Aedes borne infections. Unfortunately, yet no effective antivirals and vaccines are available for these infections. Our agreement with Sun Pharma aims to find a solution to these unmet needs”

The Zika virus was first isolated in Uganda in 1947. Since the 1950s, it has been known to occur within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia. From 2007-2016, the virus spread eastward, across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas, leading to the 2015-2016 Zika virus epidemic. The virus was first detected in India in December 2016 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The infection, known as Zika fever or Zika virus disease, often causes no or only mild symptoms, similar to a very mild form of dengue fever. Zika can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby. This can result in microcephaly, severe brain malformations, and other birth defects. Zika infections in adults may result rarely in Guillain-Barre syndrome There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for this virus.

Chikungunya is an infection caused by the chikungunya virus, belonging to the family Togaviridae. The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. While the disease typically occurs in Africa and Asia, outbreaks have been reported in Europe and the Americas since the 2000s. There is no vaccine to prevent or drug to treat chikungunya virus.

Dengue is a neglected mosquito-borne viral disease that is rapidly spreading globally. Dengue incidence has increased by more than 30-fold in the past 50 years. Currently, half of the global population lives under dengue threat; and an estimated 390 million infections occur worldwide every year with approx. 100 million cases of clinical disease and over 25,000 deaths. All four dengue virus serotypes are now endemic in India. Currently, there are no available antivirals, which presents a public health challenge in India and other parts of the world, including developed nations. There is no specific treatment other than supportive clinical care, which is extremely difficult in developing countries with poor resources.